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ANGARA WANTS COLLECTION FROM PROPOSED AUTO EXCISE TAX BE USED TO IMPROVE PUBLIC TRANSPORT

Senator Sonny Angara said the incremental revenues of the proposed increase in the excise tax of automobiles should be specifically allocated to projects that would improve the country's public transport system.

Under House Bill 5636, 60 percent of the yearly incremental revenues from the Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion (TRAIN) Act "shall be allocated proportionally, based on existing budget allocation, for infrastructure, health, education, housing and social protection expenditures. Provided, that the infrastructure allocation shall be prioritized to address congestion through mass transport and new road network."

Angara, chairman of the ways and means committee, said such language is "very general."

"You really have to explain to the people why you're taking money from their pockets. Let's make the tax reform bill complete in itself--from finding ways and means for funding to the spending of the money," the senator said.

Senate Minority Floor Leader Franklin Drilon echoed Angara's call, noting that if the earmarking provision would be left in general language, the power to allocate would still be with the Department of Budget and Management because they are the ones who craft the national expenditure program.

The two senators cited the sin tax law which specifically provided that incremental revenues from higher taxes slapped on sin products will be divided between the tobacco industry and universal health coverage.

"The sin tax funds has allowed PhilHealth membership coverage to expand benefits to the poor and the senior citizens. Dapat ganito rin sa tax reform bill.

"We're worried dahil kapag ipinasa namin ang tax reform bill, maaari pa ring maiba o mawala yung mga ipinangako na programa o proyekto na dapat ay popondohan ng makokolekta mula sa dagdag buwis. Yun ang nakakatakot. Why don't we secure the social contract with the people and make the language of the earmarking under this bill stronger," Angara said.

The lawmaker asked the Department of Finance to submit a list of transportation projects that could be funded by the the incremental revenues of the proposed increase in the excise tax of automobiles.

Angara said auto excise tax collection could be used to fix the MRT and LRT, and to subsidize the jeepney modernization program.

"We should fast-track our projects on improving and modernizing our public transport system so that Filipinos will have a viable transportation option," he said.

Source: Senate of the Philippines

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